Greetings, true believer!

Zap! Pow! Blam! Graph! (or: Holy Data, Batman!) is a d3 visualization based on data from ComicVine. This site is the handiwork of Charles Bandes and Lana Nelson and is our final project for CS-171 Data Visualization at Harvard University.


The why of it all is quite simple - we wanted to work on something fun. The course has been terrific, but the actual data-sets we've been using have been serious, practical, and perhaps a little bit dull. With a chance to chart our own course, we thought it was high time to work on something that would make us smile. Lana discovered the Marvel Comics API early in our brainstorming, which resonated well with Charley's lifelong obsession with superheroes. It turned out that the API from ComicVine served our needs better, so we quickly switched to using it.

Will it make the world a better place? No, probably not. Does it answer all of our burning questions about superheroes? Certainly not - for one thing, we only have access to the number of powers for a character, not their magnitude. (So, someone who can lift a ton gets the same 'super strength' value as someone who can lift a mountain.)

We were inspired early on by Tim Leong's superb SuperGraphic blog and book, where he collects both humorous and useful visualizations about comic books.

How do you use it?

Pretty simple really. Drag a team into one of the Petri Dishes of Justice and compare the bubbles with those of the opposing team. You can choose to view by power-count, box-office revenue, or number of issue appearances. Regardless of which view you choose, the largest bubbles indicate the characters with the most of the selected metric. You can also filter by character origin and gender. This is useful if, for instance, you want to only view female characters, or figure out if there are any non-mutant X-Men. In the settings panel you can adjust the weights of various power groupings, thereby influencing the calculation of each character's Power Quotient. You also have the opportunity to filter by number of appearances - you can use this to remove unpopular or brand-new characters.

Who is this for?

It's for every middle-schooler who ever wondered if Batman could beat up Wolverine. It's for the comic-book-guy who wonders which characters sell the most movie tickets. It's for settling late-night arguments over pizza during breaks from D&D games. It's for us, it's for you. It's for finding Charley's daughter some awesome female superheroes to read about someday. (A boy can dream...)

And I changed my mind. Yes, it will make the world a better place. Just you wait and see.